Ever So Close

DU men fall just short in bid for rare team berth into NCAA nationals; elsewhere, college careers of Dan Erickson, CU’s Daniel O’Loughlin come to end

By Gary Baines – 5/19/2021

It’s now been a full decade since a men’s golf program based in Colorado has advanced a full team to the NCAA Division I national championships. For the record, the last school to pull off the feat was Colorado State, which placed 30th in 2011. 

But teams from the Centennial State have certainly knocked on the door the last two years NCAA regional qualifying tournaments have been held.

Two years ago, CSU forced a playoff for the final team berth into nationals, only to be beaten by South Carolina by a stroke in sudden death.

Then on Wednesday at an NCAA regional in Cle Elum, Wash., the University of Denver sat in the fifth and final qualifying spot for a significant portion of the final round. Alas, a rough finish by the Pioneers paved the way for Florida to land the last team berth to nationals.

Florida, ranked 17th in the nation by Golfstat, finished the tournament three strokes ahead of DU, but most of the day the two teams were separated by two shots or less. The upshot is that the Pioneers finished sixth out of an original field of 14 and saw their season come to an end.

That’s certainly a stellar showing given that DU was seeded 13th coming into the tournament. But no doubt the Pioneers and first-year head coach Trake Carpenter will be contemplating “what if” in the immediate wake of the event.

Champion East Tennessee State, San Francisco, Wake Forest, Pepperdine and Florida earned the five team berths to nationals, which are set for May 28-June 2 Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz.

DU, the Summit League champions, was tied with Florida with less than three holes remaining, but the four Pioneers whose scores counted on Wednesday played those three holes in 6 over par.

Denver posted a 7-over-par 291 in the final round, leaving the team at 9-over 861 overall, 23 strokes behind the champs from East Tennessee State.

There was also a single individual berth to nationals at stake — for the top player not on an advancing team. That went to Tristan Mandur of Utah, who tied for fourth place overall at 6-under-par 207. Junior Carson Griggs, who led DU individually, tied for ninth at 211.

Others who played all three rounds for the Pioneers were Cal McCoy of Highlands Ranch (217, 21st place), Jackson Solem of Longmont (218, 32nd) and Esteban Missura (227, 60th). Connor Jones of Westminster went 70-73 the final two rounds after being subbed into the lineup.

— At the Albuquerque Regional, fifth-year senior Dan Erickson of Texas A&M, whose family moved to Loveland in 2018, saw his college career end in heart-wrenching fashion. 

A&M finished in sixth place, one spot — and one stroke — behind San Diego, the final team to advance to nationals. And Erickson didn’t land an individual berth to nationals either, despite tying for fourth place overall. With just one player not on one of the advancing teams making nationals, that berth went to overall Albuquerque Regional individual winner Ryan Hall of South Carolina. Hall finished two strokes ahead of Erickson, who closed with a 4-under-par 68 and a 9-under 207 total. Erickson made 15 birdies and six bogeys for the week.

Meanwhile, another fifth-year senior, the University of Colorado’s Daniel O’Loughlin, likewise saw his college career come to an end. O’Loughlin tied for 51st place at 6-over-par 222 after posting a 76 on Wednesday. He didn’t make any birdies in his last round. Still, O’Loughlin did finish his CU career with the best stroke average in program history (71.68).

— In case you missed it, Colorado State’s AJ Ott of Fort Collins qualified for NCAA nationals on Tuesday in Stillwater, Okla.

For all the scores from the men’s DI regionals, CLICK HERE.

— Meanwhile, at the NCAA Division II men’s national championships in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., Colorado State University-Pueblo moved up one spot on Wednesday to finish 14th out of 16 teams in the program’s first-ever appearance at the DII national meet.

The ThunderWolves posted a 99-over-par total for three days, missing being one of eight teams to advance to match play by 24 strokes. 

Andrew Ni, a junior from Scotland, posted the top individual finish for CSU-Pueblo. The Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference champion placed 33rd at 20-over-par 216.

For all the scores from DII men’s nationals, CLICK HERE.